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Friday, 26 June 1903

Sir EDMUND BARTON (HunterMinister for External Affairs.) - I join with my honorable friend who has just sat down, in acknowledging the reasonableness in which the mover of this resolution has clothed his desire. It is a question which should be debated without heat, and I hope so to discuss it. It should be debated, I think, solely from the stand-point of the public interest, and from that stand-point I regret that I am unable to agree with the author of the motion. The regulation under discussion reads thus -

Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote political movements. They are further forbidden to use for political purposes information gained by them in the course of duty.

These provisions immediately precede a regulation which says -

Except in the course of official duty, no information concerning public business or any matter of which an officer has knowledge officially shall be given, directly or indirectly, by an officer without the express direction or permission of the permanent head or responsible Minister.

There are- other regulations in this connexion, such as the one prohibiting officers from seeking outside influence in order to obtain promotion, but they all form part of the connected whole, which is based upon a desire to prevent purity in the administration of public affairs from being endangered by the public utterances or acts, of Commonwealth servants. I am sorry to say - and I do so without reflecting in the slightest degree upon the great body of civil servants - that occasionally instances do arise in which regulation 42 is broken, and in which it is almost impossible to trace the particular offender. Not once, but several times, since the present Government took office, cases have occurred in which public documents of a confidential character have appeared in the press under circumstances that rendered it totally impossible for them to have been published without the consent and connivance of a public servant.

Mr Fowler - Surely that case could be met in a way other than by excluding civil servants from taking part in public matters %

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